National

Media, automakers offer gags galore as April Fools' Day catches on in Japan

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Companies humored their customers on April Fools’ Day, offering eye-catching products and services that in some cases appeared to meet a credulous audience.

Corporate websites glowed with too-good-to-be-true offers of everything from luxury cars installed with rice cookers to speedy delivery of magazines by drone.

April Fools’ Day hoaxes are rare in Japan, but foreign companies — and increasingly domestic ones — are happy to take part.

On Wednesday, Audi Japan K.K. said its latest model Audi 8 luxury sedan would come equipped with state-of-the-art technology: a rice cooker.

The company’s website said the rice cooker could be operated using a touch panel, and that it would include a cabinet between the rear seats where motorists could store their bowls and chopsticks.

The car would also have a supercharged engine. Compared with existing 3.0 and 4.0-liter models, this would be the Audi A8 5.5 (a play on the word gohan, which means both the number and “rice”).

A spokesman for the company confirmed the gag.

“We received an inquiry from one customer asking for a catalog containing information about the model,” said the spokesman, who identified himself only as Otaka.

Audi wasn’t the only carmaker to fool people.

Volvo Group’s Japan branch announced it had developed an air bag for pedestrians who collide while glued to their smartphones. Its website offered a slickly produced video illustrating the air bags in action. The technical details, should a reader be fooled, include a response time of two to three hundredths of a second.

Kodansha Ltd., Japan’s largest publisher, said it would begin home delivery using drones, while Red Bull Japan Co., announced the launch of “Red Bull Guard,” an eye lotion which washes pollen out of the eyes. The nation’s many allergy sufferers might wish it were true.

Google Japan announced a new instant-answers tool named Google Panda. This highly intelligent furry personal assistant would be available in two sizes — Panda 5, and the larger Panda 6.

Google engineering chief Chris Yerga said the tool would enable “people of all ages to ask the Google Panda all the questions they have ever had.”

The device was billed as being able to answer any question in 0.3 seconds. For example, it could tell clients that a 100-gram orange contains 35 milligrams of vitamin C — in more than 50 languages.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Shimbun published in its Wednesday edition a two-page article about a genetically engineered flu virus named LOV-10E, which spreads peace and harmony and eradicates a victim’s ability to hate.

In case readers believed it, the paper acknowledged in large letters at the top of the page: “It’s April Fools’ Day,” adding, a touch sadly, that what was published was “fiction.”

The Japan Times joined in the fun with its front-page world exclusive about a city ordinance under discussion in Osaka that would require people on escalators to switch sides to avoid confusing visitors.

It was, of course, a joke. Osakans, renowned for defying Tokyo’s left-hand-side tradition, can confidently continue standing on the right.

For more laughs, see Best of April Fools’ in Japan 2015

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